Wednesday, June 27, 2012

NAF post: A Miniscule Understanding of Love

My musing about how Justin and Matty have helped me understand just a little of God's love for us. http://wp.me/pLWS6-2zO

Monday, June 25, 2012

Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley

STORYLINE: Where angels walk the ground and the future is told in song, does a man of low rank have a chance at love with a princess?
 
In Camrithia, a land of shadows and mystical secrets, Trevin lives to serve King Laetham. But his heart belongs to the princess, Melaia. When the King sends Trevin on on a dangerous quest to find the missing comains—captains in the king’s army—he must leave Melaia to the advances of a swaggering Dregmoorian prince. 
 
Challenged to prove his worth, Trevin throws himself into his quest. Striving to prove his love, Trevin undertakes a second mission—find the harps Melaia seeks in order to restore the stairway to heaven. Through fire caves, rogue winds, and murderous threats, Trevin remains steadfastly dedicated to his quest—even when he is falsely accused of a heinous crime. As Trevin’s time runs out, he realizes he must face the shame and horror of his own past and the nightmare that has come to life. Will he have the courage to finish what he has started?
MY THOUGHTS: I was a bit skeptical of this book, especially since it sounded like a typical commoner-and-princess love story. It ended up not being the best book I've ever read, but it did go up a few notches in my opinion.
It took me a while to get through Eye of the Sword, but mostly because I was really busy. The concept of angels and their children in a fantasy land was intriguing, but it didn't start really interesting me until I learned exactly how contorted the relationships of angels, humans, immortals, and their children were. (Without giving anything away, let me say that there are more people related to each other than I originally thought.)
The characters were solid, though not particularly original. The author did get me to care about whether or not Trevin and Melai would end up together (a pretty big achievement) and I did think that the final twist about the comains, while a little blindsiding, was pretty cool. And, as I mentioned earlier, figuring out the way one character was related to another was interesting.
I was disappointed that there were almost no swordfights--I expected more in a quest-type story. And I did think that everyone, especially Jarrod, accepted Trevin's confession a little too easily
As to family-friendliness, it's pretty clean. I'd feel comfortable handing it off to a 14-15 year old.
All in all, Eye of the Sword won't stand out to me as an awesome book, but it was a decent read.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

**I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review from Waterbrook Multnomah**

Friday, June 22, 2012

TRON and Hero Remix


There are two things to adore about this video.

1) It's Tron! I love that movie. Science fiction usually takes a lot to pull me in, but this one did it without much of a problem. I want a light cycle! :)

2) I'm sure I've mentioned this before...but my favorite band is Skillet, and my absolute favorite song in the world is their song Hero. For every book I write, I create a unique music list, mixing rock and soundtrack music so it gets me in just the right mood. Hero is the one song I put at the top of every list. It reminds me of how my characters strive to be heroes--and how all of them (and me) need the True Hero. 

So, mixing the two...yes please! I don't remember how I found this video, but I literally sat and watched it a dozen times in a row. It might just be me--Justin thought it was weird that I watched it that much--but I love this video and revisit it frequently when I need some inspiration.

Leaphaun did an awesome job with it...if you ever have a chance, hop over to her blog, she does some pretty awesome sketches too! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

NAF post: Brain Candy

When your brain needs a break, what books do you turn to? http://wp.me/pLWS6-2zF

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lady Moon by Rachel Starr Thomson

STORYLINE:

When Celine meets Tomas, they are in a cavern on the moon where she has been languishing for thirty days after being banished by her evil uncle for throwing a scrub brush at his head. Tomas is a charming and eccentric Immortal, hanging out on the moon because he’s procrastinating his destiny—meeting, and defeating, Celine’s uncle.

MY THOUGHTS: Celine's sarcastic 'languishing' immediately put me in mind of Patricia C. Wrede's Dealing with Dragons series--a fairytale that gently makes fun of the usual fairytale tropes. And once again, Rachel Starr Thomson doesn't disappoint.
Celine and Tomas (especially Tomas) made me laugh out loud at times--I enjoyed her fiesty somewhat-cluelessness and his goofy, sometimes-avoiding-the-point comments. I also had to giggle at the evil uncle's over-the-top villainy.
If you want a cute read, Lady Moon is definitely worth it.

Rating: four out of five stars

Friday, June 15, 2012

Meet the Author: Keven Newsome


Keven Newsome is a graduate student at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is pursuing a Master of Arts in Theology specializing in Supernatural Theology. He writes stories that portray the Supernatural and Paranormal with an accurate Biblical perspective. He is the author of Winter, a thriller published by Splashdown Darkwater. He currently lives in New Orleans, LA with his wife and their two children.

Keven is also the founder and administrator of The New Authors’ Fellowship and produces music and video through Newsome Creative.

Find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thewordcrafter,on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kevennewsome, and on Youtube at www.youtube.com/kevennewsome.

Q: How do you get ideas for stories? Specifically, what gave you the idea for Winter?

A: My ideas can come from any source, really. I have a different approach to writing than a lot of people, so my ideas may not be what you expect. I take a "story first" approach, which means the underlying theme or take-away value is what I build first. Characters and events are designed around the underlying theme in a way that best supports it. With that in mind, my ideas come from observing the human condition and hearing the life stories of other people.

However...I have been known to take a weird dream or two and develop it into something cool I can include in a larger story. I can think of at least one dream that made it into Among Dragons and one that made it into Winter 4.

The idea for Winter came from a mixture of things. Originally, it was about two story ideas. I had this idea to write about someone with the gift of prophecy. Originally, this idea was following some teen space opera track. I also wanted to write about a Goth girl, as a means of telling the story of someone who is not what they seem and how God can take a broken life and transform it into something beautiful. I don't know when or how the two ideas merged. But they did. I suppose I can claim divine inspiration on that one.

Q: When did you start writing? Do you feel that God specifically called you to write, or is it something you took up on your own?

A: The first thing I wrote was in 5th grade and it was fan fiction for a Nintendo game that I was really into. I wrote about 5 pages of jumbo sized messy hand-writing, complete with King James English because that's how they talked in the game.

Telling stories was something I did from then on. My attention span wouldn't always suffer me to write them down, so often I sketched things and just verbally told the story behind the picture. In high school I started actually writing short stories and flash fiction, eventually beginning a novel at some point.

But the thing that bothered me was that I had no idea how to write what I wanted to write and still glorify God. I knew I wanted my writing to glorify God, even if it wasn't specifically evangelistic. But I wrote fantasy and horror type stuff and my biggest questions was WJRT? Would Jesus read this? So I stopped for a while when I went off to college.

That's when I discovered the speculative Christian genre, helmed by the amazing Frank Peretti. My eyes were finally open to how I could do this and get Jesus to read it. After college I began Among Dragons...and the rest is my meager ten year writing history.

Q: Do any of your characters take over the story, or do they generally stay well-behaved?

A: Stories are like children and authors like parents. It's the authors job to raise the story and guide it to become a successful adult. But the story will become what the story wants to become, ultimately. No author knows specifically how a story will end when they first begin, no matter how much pre-planning they've done. Do my characters take over? No. But I don't focus on characters. The STORY takes over. The story evolves to be what the story is supposed to be. The characters shape it. The plot defines it. And in the end I see that I've written precisely what the story was supposed to be and that it was the only story it could have been.

Now, I HAVE had characters who have opted out of a story. One character in particular, Chloe, was supposed to have a much larger role in Winter. I had originally wanted her to be to Winter what Draco is to Harry. But Chloe didn't want to be involved. She wasn't a part of the story, so she stayed out of it. I'm trying to convince her to be a part of Winter 2, but I'm not sure it'll stick.

Q: How did you decide to write speculative fiction?

A: Because normal fiction is boring. If I want "real life" I'll just go outside and get some sun. Speculative brings me to new worlds and new possibilities. It allows me to exercise a level of creativity that you can't get anywhere else. Fantasy was my first love, so my first novel was fantasy. I speak fantasy quite fluently, having devoured most of the pioneers in the genre. I'm not talking about the popular, best-selling, type stuff. I seek out the ground-breaking fantasies, Tolkien, Lewis, Robert Jordan, and Robin McKinley. Horror was my second love. Things like HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Poe. Scifi takes third place, with HG Wells, Jules Verne, and William Gibson.

All that to say...why did I decide to write speculative? I couldn't help it. I write and speculative spills out.

Q: What gave you the idea to do an audiobook of Winter? And can you tell me a little about putting it together?

A: I always wanted to do an audiobook, but I had no idea how. An author friend introduced my to ACX. After looking into it I decided to go for it. ACX.com is a website run by Amazon. It stands for Audiobook Creation Exchange. ACX does two things for authors.

The first is that ACX is a facilitation system for creating audiobooks. They database books posted by rights holders who want to create an audiobook. They also database producers and actors who want to voice audiobooks. The rights holders can search the producer database, listen to samples from voice actors, select one, and request an audition. Likewise, the producers can search the book database, find one they're interested in, download the audition script, and send an audition to the rights holders. It goes both ways. In my case, the voice actress found me. After the rights holder and a producer is paired, ACX provides an online system with which to develop and upload the audiobook.

The second thing ACX does is distribution and contract management. This is optional. You can either choose to pay your producer out right, or you can go with a 50/50 royalty share facilitated through ACX. You can opt to do you own promotion and distribution, or you can allow ACX to take control and distribute through Amazon, iTunes, and Audible.

I went with the 50/50 royalty share and ACX distribution, because there was absolutely no upfront cost to me.

Lindsay Zana was the voice actress who submitted an audition for Winter. She did such a great job that I quickly saw we could turn this into more of a performance production than just a reading. She does different voice for every character so convincingly that sometimes you think there's more than one person. The level of emotion she puts into some of the more charged chapters is just amazing. Lindsay suggested the audio effects. Together we developed some voice effects for special events, such as premonitions or God speaking or the end sequence where Winter's voice goes weird. There's also an effect put on TVs and telephone conversations to make them sound a little more authentic.

Music was fun. I pretty much oversaw that. I chose music from Zero-Project, who I've used before for my Winter trailers. I also chose a couple tracks written by Tobias Mitter. Both of these musicians have their music available in CC license through Jamendo.com. There isn't music in every track, so don't worry. It's only there in some of the more important scenes. And it's never overly loud so as to compete with the voice acting. It's simply background mood music. Chalk it up to my on-going attempt to put more multimedia into the writing industry.

We circumvented the standard ACX interface and did most of our communication through email. That's fine, because ACX actually encourages you to do that.

Q: What was your favorite part of putting together an audiobook?

A: It's one thing to read your own book. And it's something else to see that book in print available to the whole world, with gushing reviews from readers. There's nothing like it really.

But when a voice actress as talented as Lindsay Zana gets a hold of it and brings it to life...I mean, REALLY brings it to life with emotion and movement and a voice. It's surreal. It's invigorating. It's inspiring. Winter may never become a movie. But this audiobook is absolutely the closest it could come. That's because this isn't just an audiobook. It's a performance. It's an experience.

And being there each step of the way, hearing each chapter as it unfolded, breathlessly waiting for the next and constantly wondering what Lindsay was going to do to blow my mind again...THAT was my favorite thing.

Q: Can you tell me a little about your upcoming projects?

A: Winter 2. November 2012. It makes the first book feel like a Preface. That's all you need to know.

And I can't wait! Thanks, Keven, for joining me on Magical Ink today. If any of you would like to check out the Winter audiobook, here is the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Winter/dp/B008BRDASS/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1339774244&sr=8-5&keywords=keven+newsome

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NAF post: Staring at Words

Do you ever wonder how a particular word came into being? http://wp.me/pLWS6-2zo

Monday, June 11, 2012

Novel Spotlight: Winter by Keven Newsome


STORYLINE: 
Winter Maessen isn't normal. She's a Goth at a Christian college, for one. For another, she thinks she might be getting visions. From God. Visions that tell her when people are in danger. And she doesn't want anything to have to do with it.
Because God obviously picked the wrong person to be His prophetess.

MY THOUGHTS: 
I only occasionally read supernatural thrillers, because—well, I can deal with fantasy creatures much better than things that I know inhabit the real world. What drew me to Winter was the premise of a Christian girl who also happened to be a Goth and a prophetess. It was a unique situation that I'd never seen before.
Keven Newsome's writing is excellent and straight-forward, and the storyline pulled me in. I could guess what was happening before the characters did, but there were some small surprises, and honestly, I liked the book better since I didn't feel lost in a story that twisted 180 degrees every time I turned the page. I loved how Summer and Winter were complete opposites forced to be roommates. Oh yes, and the lack of a love interest for the main character was definitely refreshing!
Family friendliness is down a little bit, naturally, because of the whole spiritual battle concept. Winter has visions of a blood-covered room, and girls are attacked (with mentions of rape.) Nothing graphic, but I'd still recommend this only to mature older teens and adults.
For those who like supernatural thrillers, Winter is definitely one to add to the list. The author is working on a sequel, and after the way he ended this book, I'm looking forward to watching Winter grow in the power granted to her!

Rating: four out of five stars

Friday, June 8, 2012

May Writing Report and Excerpts

Forged Steel: Still not progressing very fast. I've been stuck on it for a while and finally got a brainstorming session in with my friend Mary. Now that I know where I'm going with it, I plan to finish it by the middle of June.
Excerpt:
Eliaster pulled his sword out of the giant's back. "Thought I told you to run."

I rubbed my neck. "Goliath decided to clothesline me."

He wiped his blade on the guy's back and slammed it home into the sheath. "With a little training, you might make a decent swordsman."

"Oh, wonderful, I'm so glad the expert took time to notice my fighting," I said.

Eliaster shrugged and started off up the street. I looked back. Four bodies lay piled in the street, fae and humans skirting around the puddles of blood and pretending the bodies didn't exist.

My stomach shuddered. This was life in the Underworld. For a moment, I felt bile in the back of my throat.

"C'mon, Josh!" Eliaster called.  

I couldn't get sick in front of him. I swallowed and wobbled up the street.


Half Blood: Some brainstorming, that's about it. Once Forged Steel is finished, I'm diving back into the rewrite.


Short stories: I wrote and finished two this month, Flesh Eyes (an alternative history/steampunk story) and Healing the Sky (I think the only genre I could really define it as is science fantasy). Healing the Sky will appear in the print anthology of Alternative Witness, which should be coming out within the next few months.

I've had more ideas for short stories set in both worlds, and I'm thinking about posting them on my blog, Apricotpie or Figment. I'll keep you posted as my ideas on that develop.

Healing the Sky excerpt: The wolf barked.
"I know this sounds crazy, but she's talking to me. I can hear her, in my head. She's saying we have to follow her."
"You're lying," I snapped. "Talking to animals is a fairytale. No one can do that."
"I can," he shot back. "That's how I noticed the crows. I heard them talking as they burst out of the sky."
I took a step from under the tree, and a crow clacked its beak. There was no way I could get back without them pouncing on me. I stepped back in, glanced at Liam.
"Please believe me," he said.
Which was worse—a madman or those crows? I took a deep breath, tried to still my quivering voice. "Fine, Fluffy. Lead on."


Flesh Eyes excerpt: I pushed my hands deep into my pockets and felt my fingers start curling into balls. Hebron stared calmly at Ranger, his own hands hanging loose at his sides.

"You're half metal," he said suddenly, startling both me and Ranger.

Ranger settled back down on his crate, propping his elbows on his knees. "I've been living with myself for the past two years this way. How observant of you."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Winners of Brother Thief

I'm so, so sorry this is late! Last weekend ended up being busier than I expected...

The winners of the three copies of 'Brother Thief' are Lostariel, P. Creeden, and Galadriel. Congrats and happy reading! I'll get Gregory your emails soon--be looking for your books soon!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Character Interview--Varian from Half Blood

I recently introduced Varian, the main character from my novel Half Blood, to a Facebook group I'm part of, the League of Extraordinary Scribes, and they had quite a few questions for him! Consider yourself lucky, everyone--Varian is answering these in person (he said he'd rather face personal questions than risk me getting it wrong.) Don't worry, he's not always this grouchy. ;)

Hannah Stewart asked: What's his greatest fear, and why?
Varian: My greatest fear is that everyone will abandon me and turn against me. I've seen it happen before—friends I had while growing up got old enough to discover the meanings of "half blood" and "highlander" and turned their backs on me. I have few enough friends and family in the world now. They keep me sane—I don't think I could handle the rejection and anger without them.
How does he deal with the loss of his family members?
Varian: By shutting myself up. I don't like anyone to get close to me, and even those whom I call "friends", I keep at arm's length.
What's his favorite color?
Varian: Gray. It's plain, unobtrusive, and most people dismiss it from their minds.

Nathaneal Rebiger asked: Does he have any trade skills?
Varian: Trade skills? I'm a good swordsman. I suppose you could call that a 'trade skill'—I could certainly live by it if I ever chose to leave.
What's his opinion on the war?
Varian: In a word—stupid.

Kaleb Kramer asked: How does he feel about his parents?
Varian: I wish I'd been able to get to know my mother more. As for my father—well, we loved each other, but we weren't close. I never really felt like he understood what I was going through.
About the highlanders?
Varian: They're like me—picked on and despised. I'd like to get to know some of them.

Hannah Stewart asked: Does he have a metaphorical tough outer shell, but inside he's a softy? Or has life made him bitter through and through?
Varian: I'm more bitter than soft.
Heather: he does have some soft spots.
Varian: Ahem…I thought we agreed I was writing this one, Heather. Anyway—every time I start to soften up, something happens that makes me bitter all over again. It's a cancer that I'd like to get rid of, but I have no idea how to even start the process.

Nathanael Rebiger asked: What is his opinion on authority and authority figures?
Varian: I have no problem with authority. Someone has to be in charge. Where it gets annoying is when someone is in charge who doesn't deserve it.
For example: I have no problem with my older brother, Jevran, being in authority over me. He's the king and my older brother, and he wears his authority well. But I can't stand having Danilos, who deserves to have authority over me because he's my elder and my brother's counselor, in authority. I hate it, in fact. In my opinion, he doesn't deserve that position.
Me: Why don't you tell them why you feel that way, Varian.
Varian: No. You want some things to be surprises, don't you?

Michelle Audrey Black asked: Is he right-handed or left-handed?
Varian: Right.
What's his favorite icecream flavor?
Varian: Vanilla. Plain and unpretentious.
If he had to choose between being upside down for three days or underground for three days, which would he pick?
Varian: Underground. I'm not claustrophobic, but I am scared of heights, and being upside down generally involves some sort of heights.

Hannah Stewart asked: Does he enjoy the classic arts? (music, written word, art, etc) If so which is his favorite piece?
Varian: I don't like books—sorry, they bore me. And I don't usually appreciate art (Kearah's working on me with that.) So that leaves music…which I do enjoy. I don't really have a favorite piece, but I like highlander dance songs.

Michelle Audrey Black asked: Does he have any pets? Or animals that he's close to?
Varian: No. I don't like becoming fond of anyone or anything.

Hannah Stewart asked: what's his greatest talent? Does he have a secret talent that only himself and a few others know about?
Varian: Ummm…my greatest talent would probably be making people mad at me.
Heather: That's because you're too blunt. No, Varian, you can't answer this one. His greatest talent is that he's a good leader and he's charismatic. He wouldn't say so, but the people who take time to look past his highlander side see that—that's why the few friends he had are so loyal, and why some of the others who 'pretend' to dislike him secretly wish they could follow him.
Varian: Sure—whatever.
What's his favorite memory?
Varian: The time my dad took me hunting on my tenth birthday. It was just him and me for the entire day, and it was one of the best days of my life. That was the only time we did anything like that.

Michelle Audrey Black asked: How does he feel about red-headed metal armed troublemakers?
Varian: I don't know any…should I have an opinion on this?
Heather: Varian would probably be right in the middle of whatever trouble the guy stirred up, ready to annoy more people and help the troublemaker. ;)
Varian: As long as he didn't lie to me.
Heather: You're such a sweetheart, Varian.

Kaleb Kramer asked: what does he hope to do with his life?
Varian: Stop the war. That's my biggest ambition, to unite the highlanders and lowlanders back into one strong country.

Heather: Looks like that's all the questions. All righty--thanks, everyone! We had fun. *elbows Varian* Didn't we?

Varian: Sure. Now get back to finishing Half Blood, please.

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All blog content copyrighted 2012 by H. A. Titus